_Composers – Rossini

Rossini – Overtures / Maag

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  • With a BETTER than Triple Plus (A+++ to A++++) side two and a side one that earned a very respectable grade of Double Plus (A++), the orchestral power of display here is positively PHENOMENAL
  • Wilkie’s Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s Rossini is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

*NOTE: On side two, a light crackle is audible on the first minute and during the early quiet intro to Track 1, Semiramide Overture. Afterwards, the record plays about as quiet as they ever do, Mint Minus Minus.

Please note: we award the More Than Three Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side two here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we called it A+++ to A++++!

We award this copy’s side two our better than Three Plus grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

The reason we called side two More Than Three Pluses is that of the eight or so copies we had in our shootout, no other copy on either side sounded as good as side two of this copy. We play a lot of classical records around here and this one really stood out from the pack as a true One Percenter.

Maag breathes life into these works as only he can and the Decca engineering team led by Kenneth Wilkinson do him proud.

Everyone needs a good Rossini Overtures – the music is exciting and fun, not to mention Demonstration Quality on a pressing such as this. The combination of sound and performance on the best of the Maag-led Londons could not be equaled. Gamba on London was much too sleepy for our tastes, and the famous Reiner on RCA left a lot to be desired. It’s mid-hall perspective and dynamic compression took all the fun out of this music. After hearing the killer Maag pressings, nothing else would do!

Note that the orchestra is none other than the Paris Conservatoire, whose playing of the famously demanding Stravinsky Rite of Spring, under Monteux (LSC 2085), is absolutely stunning as well. (more…)

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque – Reversed Polarity Copy

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This is a WONDERFUL sounding, very quiet original Shaded Dog pressing of one of the rarest Living Stereo titles. Dropping the needle on side one was a shock — the sound was terrible: thin, shrill and practically unlistenable. Since I know this to be an exceptionally good sounding record, there was only one possibility: reverse absolute phase. Sure enough, the magic of Living Stereo reappeared. If you can’t reverse your polarity, this is not the record for you! 

Are they all that way? I have no way of knowing. I run across a clean quiet copy like this once every ten years or so. If any of you out there own this record and yours is not reversed phase let me know what your stamper numbers are, I’d be very interested.

This has always been a favorite title with audiophiles. It’s full of lovely orchestral colors, much like The Nutcracker. As usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops are accorded superb sound.

Rossini et al. / William Tell and other Overtures – Bernstein – Reviewed in 2008

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This is a SUPERB SOUNDING Columbia Masterworks LP of favorite overtures, energetically conducted by Leonard Bernstein. It’s exceedingly rare to find a Columbia pressing with sound like this: there’s tons of tubey magic; the string tone is surprisingly good; there’s huge amounts of depth and the overall presentation is tonally rich, sweet, and correct in the best golden age tradition.

There’s a bit of compression in the loudest passages, especially on side two. But this is a small price to pay for an otherwise wonderful sounding, beautifully mastered and pressed Columbia 360 Label LP.

Carl Stern plays the cello solo on the piece by Suppe and the sound is to die for, every bit as good as the famous Mercurys and RCAs we know so well. Truth be told, the quieter passages on this record are the most wonderful. The sense of real musicians playing in space is palpable, especially on side one.

The other pieces on this record are Zampa Overture, Mignon Overture, Raymond Overture and Poet and Peasant Overture.

Today’s Bad Sounding Reissue Is Decca SPA 503!

Apparently mastered with no regard to sound quality, this Decca SPA reissue is muddy, dull and smeary.

How do we know that? We go out of our way to play every pressing we can get our hands on, even cheap reissues such as this. That’s our job.  We play everything so you don’t have to.

Some of them are good, some of them are mediocre, and some, like this one, are ridiculously bad.

We know this music well, having done shootouts for these works. They are Demonstration Quality recordings if you have the right import pressings on Decca or London, and the performances are second to none.

More reviews of the recordings of Mendelssohn

More reviews of records conducted by Peter Maag.

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque / Solti – Reviewed in 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London Mono Radio Promotion Copy is a stunner! DEMO QUALITY SOUND.

They even knew it back then — it was given the Hi-Fi Record Of The Month award! This orchestration and the sound of this music is ideal for audiophile listening.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice that closes out side two has slightly better sound by the way — it’s quite good.

Rossini Overtures with Reiner on RCA and Gamba on London – Audiophiles Should Give These Two a Miss


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None of the pressings we played of this RCA were remotely competitive with Maag and the PCO on London. The sound of this recording was consistently boxy and congested, a case of the “old school” sound that is found on far too many vintage pressings.


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No good either. Opaque, up front and completely lacking in layered depth.

Here is the kind of sound that makes Heavy Vinyl so unpleasant to those of us who have Big Speaker systems that reproduce space, depth and soundstaging well.

What We’re Listening For on Rossini Overtures

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Rossini Bio (more…)

Rossini / Overtures with Maag – The Best on Record

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a side two that’s not far behind, the orchestral power of display here is positively PHENOMENAL
  • This Decca Tree recording is overflowing with the kind of rich, spacious, Tubey Magical sound that can only be found on vintage vinyl
  • Performances and sound like no other – Maag’s William Tell is in a league of its own
  • “You’d think Maag would approach the scores the way most conductors do: gung-ho and hell bent for leather. He doesn’t. In fact, Maag displays a good deal of reserve, calculating his interpretations for the biggest payoff. For instance, in William Tell he keeps the opening sections in check, and then he builds the final segment into a most-exciting whirlwind, the conclusion carrying you away.”

(more…)

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque / Fiedler – Reviewed in 2008

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DEMO QUALITY. It’s hard to find a better record with more Tubey Magical hear-all-the-way-to-the-back-of-the-hall sound than this, at least on side one.  

Fiedler has a way with the Ibert piece here like nobody’s business; the performance is definitive, although the sound is not as good as La Boutique Fantasque, which is nothing short of amazing. The Kay piece sounds excellent here and is beautifully performed. Fiedler is hard to beat on music like this.

It’s Records Like This that Give Reissues a Bad Reputation

Apparently mastered with no regard to sound quality, this Decca SPA reissue is muddy, dull and smeary.

How do we know that? We go out of our way to play every pressing we can get our hands on, even cheap reissues such as this. That’s our job.  We play everything so you don’t have to.

Some of them are good, some of them are mediocre, and some, like this one, are ridiculously bad.

We know this music well, having done shootouts for all four of these works. They are Demonstration Quality recordings if you have the right import pressings on Decca or London, and the performances are second to none.

More reviews of the recordings of Rossini

More reviews of the recordings of Mendelssohn

Rimsky-Korsakov / Rossini / Tchaikovsky / Fiedler

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  • This exceptionally rare and practically-impossible-to-find-in-audiophile-playing-condition Shaded Dog from 1958 has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Plenty of Tubey Magic, utilizing a closer mic setup than many early recordings – this provides more immediacy at the expense of less soundstage depth and width relative to other Hi-Fi Specataculars from this era
  • “R. D. Darrell’s notes for the 1958 stereo LP release state that the three selections were specifically designed for demonstrate the newest heights yet attainable in the never-ending but ever-closer approach to perfect sonic replicas of the original “live” symphonic performances.”

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